The three most important parts of a book are: a well constructed plot, compelling characters, and a satisfying conclusion.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

LIFE AFTER DEATH By Damien Echols

Life After Death by Damien EcholsPublisher: Blue Rider Press
Release Date:  September 2012
Pages:  399
Genre:  Biography
Reviewed By WC

Book Description:  In 1993 three teenagers, Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Miskelley Jr were arrested and charged with the murders of three eight-year-old boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. The ensuing trial was rife with inconsistencies, false testimony and superstition. Echols was accused of, among other things, practising witchcraft and satanic rituals – a result of the “satanic panic” prevalent in the media at the time. Baldwin and Miskelley were sentenced to life in prison. Echols, deemed the ringleader, was sentenced to death. He was eighteen years old.

In a shocking reversal of events, all three were suddenly released in August 2011. This is Damien Echols' story in full: from abuses by prison guards and wardens, to descriptions of inmates and deplorable living conditions, to the incredible reserves of patience, spirituality, and perseverance that kept him alive and sane for nearly two decades. Echols also writes about his complicated and painful childhood. Like Dead Man Walking, Life After Death is destined to be a classic.

WC's Thoughts:  In 1993, Damien Echols and two of his teenage buddies were arrested for the murder of three boys, all eight years of age. They were subsequently railroaded through the Arkansas judicial system for the simple reason they looked like demonic murderers. Apparently, it does not pay positive rewards to wear black trench coats.

This is Damien's story revealed during the trials and tribulations of sitting on Death Row for nearly nineteen years. How one keeps from going completely insane in prison is the main thrust of this story. Through his resolve and intellect and unique view of humanity, Damien is able to keep his head above water. A true blessing in his life is when he marries the young lady who takes up his cause of innocence.

Despair is overwhelming. Occupying your mind is a deliberate, ongoing process. Only through a modicum of hope that someday he will walk free again keeps the hero from crumbling over the edge of depression.

Generally well written, at times repetitive, but always fascinating, this story makes you cheer on the meager successes of his future while remaining furious at the antics of people who have written him off as evil, while failing to realize that they, themselves, are less than human.

Good read.

Damien EcholsAbout the Author:  Damien Wayne Echols, along with Jessie Misskelley and Jason Baldwin, is one of the three men, known as the West Memphis Three, who were convicted in the killing of three eight-year-old boys Steve Branch, Christopher Byers, and Michael Moore at Robin Hood Hills, West Memphis, Arkansas, on May 5, 1993.

Damien Echols was convicted of murder by a jury and sentenced to death by lethal injection. He was on death row under 23 hours per day lockdown at the Varner Supermax. On August 19, 2011, Echols, along with the two others collectively known at the West Memphis Three, were released from prison after their attorneys and the judge handling the upcoming retrial agreed to a deal. Under the terms of the Alford guilty plea, Echols and his co-defendents pleaded guilty to three counts of first degree murder while maintaining their innocence. DNA evidence failed to connect Echols or his co-defendents to the crime.